Socialist Dorothy Day Being Prepared for ‘Beatification’
Dr. Carol Byrne, Great Britain
Every so often the name of Dorothy Day pops up in the media, especially in the Catholic press, where she is invariably presented as a revered icon of social reform, a peace-loving and charitable figure who dedicated her life to helping the poor.|
A few of the most recent examples will suffice to illustrate the point. Dorothy Day was hailed as a modern day saint, (1) as one of the “10 Catholic women who changed the world,” (2) as “one of the most significant women in the life of the Church in the United States,” this last statement by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York , (3) , and as a “great reformer in American history” by President Barak Obama. (4)
Card. Dolan encouraging Dorothy Day's beatification
So, it does not come as a surprise to see a similar publicity stunt for Dorothy Day in a recent issue of the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, penned by Lucetta Scaraffia, a campaigner for women’s equality in the “male-dominated” institution of the Church; she believes in “girl power” as the answer to all the Church’s ills.
The article in question is a preparation for the “beatification” of Day, after John Paul II declared her “servant of God.” (5) The cause for her beatification has been formally introduced by the Archbishop of New York.
The data repeat the same hackneyed ideas that we have heard and read ad nauseam in the standard hagiographies of Day – how she had “a passion for the poor and dispossessed,” gave up Communism on becoming a Catholic, and rejected all forms of violence and war. But how true are all these claims?
A communist cover-up
We have every reason to doubt the veracity of these claims because they all have one basic flaw in common: Their authors pick and choose from among details of Day’s life in order to put as much distance as possible between her and Communism. But, as authentic documentary evidence has shown, Day never gave up her communist friends or philosophy. (6)
Even after her conversion, she was a member of several Socialist organizations and was actively involved in political groups whose founders and leaders were predominantly Communist Party members. In addition to collaborating with such groups, Day also used her newspaper, the Catholic Worker, (of which she was editor for almost 50 years) as an organ of propaganda in favor of Communism.
Picketing for pacifism even into her old age
Photo by Vivian Cherry
Card. Dolan described Day as “quintessentially American” in spite of the fact that she supported the policies of hostile foreign powers operating from Moscow, Havana, Peking and Hanoi against her own country, the USA. She also wrote favorably about such socialist dictators as Lenin, Castro, Mao and Ho Chi Minh, even though they had all violently persecuted the Church in their respective countries.
As for her adhesion to Pacifism, Dorothy Day was not concerned with such terrorist or violent acts when they were done to further Communism. Even after it was known publicly and generally that Castro was a communist dictator, she visited Cuba, extolled its “social advances,” and insisted that the religious and clergy who fled did so voluntarily, not under force. She continued to praise communist Cuba after Castro was excommunicated by Pope John XXIII in 1962.
The Cardinal was similarly misinformed about Dorothy Day’s attitude to private property. It is a matter of historical evidence that she called for common ownership of property and the means of production, and even favored communal child rearing to replace the traditional family.
Contrary to the claims of L’Osservatore Romano, Day believed in class war, and her writings in the Catholic Worker often fostered it. Day herself declared in the January 1970
Catholic Worker that her New York office “was a revolutionary headquarters rather than a Bowery mission, as most newspapers like to picture us.”
A new kind of 'saintly' quote...
Therefore, if the Vatican were to make a serious analysis of Dorothy Day’s life, she would never become a blessed.
Unfortunately, this presupposition of seriousness can no longer be assumed. We have seem many processes of beatification and canonization where the analyses of the life and writings of the candidate were disregarded in order to please John Paul II or Benedict XVI who wants to make him a saint. This is a new criterion for “heroic virtue” and "orthodoxy of writings" that has little to do with the venerable criteria of the past.
1. Fr Ashley Beck, a Catholic priest in the London area, stated: “We can learn so much from Day and the still important Catholic Worker movement to help us live a virtuous life and promote the “new evangelization” called for by Pope Benedict.” (Catholic Herald, November 26, 2010)
2. Catholic Herald, May 31, 2012
3. Card. Dolan also described Day as “Jesus-centred” and a woman of “profound prayer” who “loved the Church”. See
Insights from the life of Dorothy Day. The Cardinal was preaching at the Church of St. Joseph in Greenwich Village on November 9, 2010. This event was co-sponsored by this church and the Pacificst Organization Pax Christi, New York.
4. Washington Post Feb 2 2012. Day was named a national hero by Obama at National Prayer Breakfast
5. ‘La sorprendente vita di Dorothy Day’, Osservatore Romano, July 26, 2012, p. 11
6. See Carol Byrne, The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis, Authorhouse, 2010
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